by Arundhati Roy
Winner of the Booker prize, this novel tells the story of a family torn apart by cruelty, divorce, class and caste difference, time, family jealousies and rivalries, and everything else that helps a dysfunctional family break apart. At the center of the tragic tale are Estha and Rahel, twins, and their mother who dared divorce, and then dared love an Untouchable. It’s told in a compelling fashion, with foreshadowing hints here and there, flashbacks and remembrances and the present melding together, with doom looming over the whole and never going away.
This novel really is an impressive debut. However, I was hugely put off by the horrible cutesy writing: the strung together words that fail to add meaning to anything (“steelshrill police whistles,” “skyblue”), inane, useless capitalizations (“the Air was Alert and Bright and Hot,” “Hotweather”) that supposedly represent Important Concepts to the children of the story but really just evoke A.A. Milne, and worst of all the totally absurd invented use of adverbs (“her eyes were redly dead,” “it waved a cemently paw”) that serves no purpose except to disgust me. Without this irritating cutesy prose, the novel’s dramatic web would truly be mesmerizing.